Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stream us up Scotty: Star Trek boldly going where its gone - and not gone before - back to television with a new TV series, done in a new way.

The iconic TV series Star Trek is boldly going where its both gone before and not: back to television where its been, but in a new way for a new series.

With the 50th anniversary of the Gene Roddenberry science fiction series happening in 2016 and which has seen several different series and movies over the past five decades, CBS Television Studios will produce a new Star Trek series that will start in January 2017.

In America the as yet untitled Star Trek series will be streamed on CBS' subscription video-on- demand (SVOD) service CBS All Access, but it will be sold internationally concurrently by CBS Studios International.

That means that South African viewers will most likely see the new Star Trek iteration on M-Net or M-Net Edge (DStv 102) on MultiChoice's DStv, or on the Naspers' SVOD service, ShowMax early in 2017.

"There is no better time to give Star Trek fans a new series than on the heels of the original show's 50th anniversary celebration," says David Stapf, CBS Television Studios president in a statement.

"Everyone here has great respect for this storied franchise and we're excited to launch its next television chapter."

The new Star Trek will be set on a starship with "new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966," says CBS Television Studios in a statement.

CBS is emphasising that the new Star Trek series will not be linked to the current new Star Trek movie series released by Paramount Pictures with the third film in the latest reboot that will be in cinemas just over a month from now.

The setting of the new TV series has not yet been revealed and no casting for characters has taken place.

"Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world," says Armando Nuñez, the president and CEO of CBS Global distribution. "We can't wait to introduce Star Trek's next voyage on television to its vast global fan base."

Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer who co-wrote the new Star Trek movies, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Some fans are concerned, since Alex Kurtzman is also the executive producer of the more mundane procedural TV dramas, Hawaii Five-0, Scorpion and the new Limitless and are wondering whether the setting, writing and dramatic story lines will be able to once again evolve the TV series franchise.

Another concern is whether the new starship Enterprise - or whatever the latest spaceship might be called - will fly on TV in a new television era.

Gene Roddenberry's optimistic science fiction show has always at heart envisioned a positive future of mankind; that despite setbacks there's hope for mankind and science to overcome war, poverty, conflict and differences while exploring the stars.

That's in stark contrast to the TV fare viewers seem to love most watching now.

The core vision of Star Trek stands in stark contrast to the nihilistic nomansland of the living dead permeating TV now.

Dominating television with a depressing depiction of the future and the past, viewers can't get enough of huge ratings hits in a present where apocalyptic shows ranging from The Walking Dead to Game of Thrones reign supreme.

The original Star Trek ran for three seasons from 1966. It was successfully revived with Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 - 1994), the critically loved but darker in tone and more serialised Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995 - 2001) which ran out of steam and the almost universally loathed Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 - 2005) which hugely damaged the franchise and meant the end of Trek on television.

A possible new Star Trek series has since been kept off television due to extremely intricate rights issues behind the scenes in a Paramount Viacom rights dispute, making it very difficult to revive it as a TV show.

After CBS split from Viacom in 2006, Star Trek's licensing and merchandising rights are split over two companies. CBS has the rights to make TV series, while Viacom through Paramount has the rights to the film series.

That means that when making different Star Treks, although its essentially the same "creation", they're actually competing against each other.

Some South African Star Trek TV facts:
■ The original Star Trek was shown on TV1. The show has been originally remastered and released in high definition (HD) on Blu-Ray. The brand-new HD version was quietly broadcast in 2014 on FOX. Neither DStv, nor StarSat nor FOX International Channels (FIC) told pay-TV subscribers about it.

■ Star Trek: The Next Generation's last 4 of its 7 seasons have never been seen on television in South Africa. SABC3 announced on television in the early 90's that the channel is falling too far behind, that the series, although about the future, is old and that the show has more Zulu than English viewers - as if that was a bad thing.

■ The former BopTV channel of the former Bophuthatswana showed the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation' with some South African viewers living close enough who could catch the terrestrial signal.

■ Star Trek: The Next Generation has since also been originally remastered and released in HD on Blu-Ray. The spectacular HD version has never been been broadcast in South Africa.

■ Star Trek: DS9 suffered the same fate. TV1 showed only the first two seasons after discarding the show set on a space station. The last 5 seasons were never shown, and the series has never been shown on any other TV channel or pay TV channel available in South Africa since. The series has not been remastered in HD.

■ Star Trek: Voyager which has not been remastered in HD, was shown on SABC3 - all 7 seasons.

■ All four seasons of Star Trek Enterprise was broadcast in standard definition on the discontinued channel M-Net Series. The show which spelled the end of the Star Trek series franchise in 2005 has never seen its episodes which were all filmed in HD, broadcast in HD in South Africa.
UPDATE: A reader correctly reminds me and points out that Star Trek: Enterprise got another airing: It was also broadcast in 2014 on FX on StarSat in SD.

■ Here's an idea to live long and prosper! Following the successful Star Wars pop-up channel from M-Net Movies a few months ago on MultiChoice DStv, a possible Star Trek channel in HD in 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary would be a great idea: Enough movies exist, all in HD.
There also enough Star Trek episodes across 5 series to surpass even the most robust Tribble population with hundreds of episodes that have never been broadcast in South Africa and that now exists in glorious HD.